House passes legislation to reform school finance, property taxes

AUSTIN — The Texas House of Representatives on April 3 approved much-anticipated legislation written to revise the state’s public school finance system. The vote was 148-1, and the bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.

House Bill 3 would increase pay for public school classroom teachers, librarians and other full-time personnel and also would enable property tax relief. Primarily authored by House Education Committee Chair Dan Huberty, R-Houston, joint authors include Reps. Diego Bernal, D-San Antonio; John Zerwas, R-Richmond; Ken King, R-Canadian; and Alma Allen, D-Houston.

HB 3’s estimated net cost would be $9.5 billion, covering the fiscal biennium that ends Aug. 31, 2021. In addition to pay increases and incentives, HB 3 would reduce recapture and enable some $2.7 billion in property tax relief. The legislation, among its general provisions, changes the order in which the Foundation School Program is financed so that state-available school funds would be applied before locally generated property tax revenue.

After the House voted, Gov. Greg Abbott applauded lawmakers for their work and said, “Texans are demanding meaningful reforms to our school finance system, and today’s passage of HB 3 in the House is a vital step toward that goal. By reducing recapture, investing more money in our schools and in our teachers, the Legislature is making changes that will have a lasting impact on our education system, and more importantly, our students.”

State Rep. Gina Hinojosa, D-Austin, chair of the House Democratic Caucus Special Committee on Education, in an April 3 news release called HB 3 “the bill we have been working for.”

“To the teachers who dedicate their working lives to our kids, who for too long have been under-appreciated and unheard: We hear you, and this bill is for you,” she said.

“In February, House Democrats put forward our Texas Kids First Plan. We laid out a number of key priorities for our vision for the future of public education in Texas. Today, I am pleased to say that this bill incorporates most of those priorities.

“House Bill 3 is an example of what happens when we come together — Democrats and Republicans — and instead of fighting about our different visions, speak honestly about what we want and what we can achieve together. We can expect and can tolerate no less,” Hinojosa added.